The “O Antiphons” O Wisdom
November 28, 2021
O Wisdom, proceeding from the mouth of the Most High, pervading and permeating all creation, mightily ordering all things, come and teach us the way of prudence.
True or False – Jesus is in the Old Testament. It’s sort of a trick question. Jesus is not in the Old Testament because Jesus wasn’t born until the New Testament. However, the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, is found throughout the Old Testament. You’ll find Christ, God’s promised Savior in every book of the Old Testament. Since we confess that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit exist from all eternity we should expect to find the whole godhead throughout the whole Bible. Many Christians inadvertently think that the Father came first, then His Son, and the Spirit came later.
During this Advent season we are going to use some ancient hymns of the church to see Christ in the Old Testament. It is good for our faith to study the Old Testament because we do not know it that well, and we often have wrong beliefs about it.
The Old Testament is Law, and the New Testament is Gospel. False.
In the Old Testament God is judge and in the New He is a loving father. False.
The Old Testament is about the Father and the New Testament is about the Son and the Spirit. False.
The Gospel of the New Testament does away with all the laws of the Old Testament. False.
These ancient hymns are called the “O Antiphons.” They have been used in the church for over 1500 years. You are familiar with them because you know the hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” The composer of that hymn built it around the O Antiphons. Each antiphon contains a title for Christ. “O Wisdom.” Then there is a description of His work. Wisdom proceeds from the mouth of the Most High, pervades and permeates all creation, and mightily orders all things.” Finally, the hymn verse petitions the Christ to come and work among us, “O Wisdom, Come and teach us the way of prudence.” The O Antiphons trace the promises and work of Christ from before the world began until His incarnation in the womb of the Virgin Mary. They trace Christ through the whole Old Testament.
To understand the “O Wisdom” antiphon you need to hear the first three verses of Genesis and Saint John’s Gospel. (Read). Then you need to know a tiny little bit of Greek – actually one word – λόγος. That’s the Greek word for word. In the beginning was the Logos and the Logos was with God and the Logos was God. You know that word “logos” from the English word biology – words about life or sociology – words about society. This word “logos” is also the source of our word “logic.”
So, the Son of God is the Word of God, and by this Word God made everything in the world including you. God spoke and it was so. God spoke and by His Word, the Logos, the Christ, He made everything there is, and in that creation He made order out of chaos. That’s wisdom – when everything is put together right, when it works, when it makes sense.
This is all confessed in the Antiphon. O Wisdom, proceeding from the mouth of the Most High, pervading and permeating all creation, mightily ordering all things.
Let me give you some wisdom this morning. If you want to make sense of everything in the world pay attention to Christ. See things in Christ. In Christ you will see why some things work and some things do not. You will learn why every human attempt to create a perfect world, a peaceful society, or a pleasant life fails. You will have an answer to the problem of suffering. You will know why some people have much and others have little. You will find delight in your work whether you are a stay-at-home mom, a sanitation engineer, or a neurosurgeon.
The Wisdom of God’s Word is not difficult. By His Word God perfectly and mightily ordered the world. The simplest flower will teach you that truth or the complexities of the earth’s atmosphere. By your sin, you and Grandpa Adam, brought chaos to God’s order. One common sin infects us all. The simple answer to the problem of evil – why do bad things happen to good people is this. There are no good people. All have sinned. God is not the cause of evil. The Devil and you are. The wiser question for the person aware of his sinfulness is, “Why don’t more bad things happen to me?”
The answer to that question is also found in God’s wisdom, in Christ. Wisdom ordered the world. You disorder it. God promised that His Wisdom would restore order to chaos. His Son would come to make right what was wrong – you. This is why you pray for Wisdom to come to you, for you.
O Wisdom … come and teach us the way of prudence.” Prudence is living your life wisely, in view of wisdom and Wisdom is Christ.
When you pray for God’s Wisdom to come be careful. His Wisdom is not your wisdom. His wisdom is folly in the eyes of the world, as Saint Paul tells us (Read 1 Cor 1:18 & 23). God’s Wisdom is to send His Son to forgive you. That is not logical, but it is life. It is prudent for you to believe this because it is the only wisdom that will save you. God’s Wisdom is to justify you through injustice. Jesus gets your punishment. The innocent dies for the guilty. God’s Wisdom is to love His enemies (you). God’s Wisdom is to provide one door into the ark of salvation, one gate into his sheepfold, one way to life, and that way is Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ of God, the Wisdom of God. Man’s wisdom says there are many ways to “God.” God’s Wisdom cannot coexist with other gods any more than the truth can live with lies.
This is the wisdom by which you live. The Wisdom of God came in the flesh of Jesus. If you want to know about God look to Wisdom incarnate. Jesus Christ died for your sins. He rose from the dead and that’s logical – if there is no sin there is no death. Jesus, by His Word, ordered things mightily for His church, for you, in foolish, common, ordinary things – the water of baptism, the preaching of your pastor, the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper. These foolish and common elements He ordered mightily for your salvation. You would do well to partake of them. It would be prudent. You don’t need to go on a quest for God. You don’t need to question what God is up to. He who ordered the world out of chaos, has now by His Wisdom brought order to our chaos. His forgiveness takes away your sin, undoes evil, destroys death, and makes peace. First between you and God and once you’ve got that you can do your part to bring order to the world by loving with the truth, by confessing your sin, by forgiving your enemies, by showing mercy to the needy, by humbly walking before God and your neighbor.
O Wisdom, proceeding from the mouth of the Most High, pervading and permeating all creation, mightily ordering all things, come and teach us the way of prudence. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
We will now once again sing stanza 2 of Hymn 357, followed by the choir singing the “O Wisdom” antiphon.